Why Does the Media Only Pick On Heroes?
by Adrian Tullberg.
Dr. Karla Sofen, former mental health professional now super-villain, let her brunch appointment rant. After all, if you didn't let a super-villain like The Mad Thinker vent, he would let loose in other, less constructive ways. So she mentally tuned him out while taking lingering looks of the boy behind the Starbuck's cash register.
"... and the insult. It's more than one thing to say I'm evil, that's the kind of knee-jerk reaction that greater minds develop a thick mental callus towards, but immoral...? "
Possibly had a girlfriend. His prospects were improving.
"... a deviant? A panel of pundits agreeing, parroting the opinion I'm ... an irrelevant terrorist? My schemes ..."
On the cusp of underage. Just perfect.
"... and yes, I realise that if I hunted down, exterminated every one of those hacks on that network, they'd just replace them, and step up their slander, all while labelling those egotistical talking heads 'martyrs' ... Sofen, why are you rolling your eyes."
If she'd been able to fake empathy, she wouldn't be a wanted criminal, she'd have her own TV show and line of self-help books. And the only crime she'd have to commit would be to bury Oprah in a ditch in Utah.
"That was my reaction towards a super-villain calling someone 'egotistical'. Let's get to business, shall we? A 24 Hour Cable News Channel decides to make you the villain of the news cycle. After the whole swearing vengeance and smashing up your lab, you realised that killing everyone involved would be more trouble than it's worth, you realised that you needed ... a specialist." Sofen gave the Thinker the kind of smile that she only gave those she had under her thumb. "You need me to find a way of dealing a truly appropriate form of revenge."
Paradoxically, one of the finest minds on the planet was hidden under the face of a Neanderthal. And writ large across the Thinker's features was a debate between an attempt to beat her to death or clubbing her prior to dragging her to his cave.
With great effort, the Mad Thinker slowly reminded himself that he needed her, at present. "Our business depends, Dr. Sofen, on the chance that you can, deliver."
She gave him a brilliant smile. "Well of course I can deliver, darling. Of course, I need you to deliver two things."
She adopted her best 'hurt' expression. "The nasty, dreadful, but unfortunately necessary business of recompense."
"Not a problem." Years before Wall Street had employed supercomputers to buy and sell shares with inhuman speed and efficiency, the Thinker had outpaced the technology currently in operation utilising parts he'd scavenged from discarded, outdated game consoles. Vast funds were now squirreled away in various accounts under multiple shell companies. Subterranean lairs and henchmen could not be put on an American Express Card.
"Now that the difficult part has been dealt with, here is the second." Sofen detailed a set of requirements. After using a pen and napkin so do some sums, the Thinker noted that these requirements were comfortably within his abilities to do achieve. In fact there was some old equipment in a dark corner of a technology cache that would do the job with minimal modification. While the Thinker was conducting his power requirement calculations, Sofen walked up to the counter. She obtained a packet of breath mints, the boy's cell phone number and a guarantee he would dump his girlfriend before 5 pm. She thought about getting his name but decided that was veering too close to a relationship.
"As you can see..."
"Can it be done?"
"Good. Now Phase Two of our master plan."
The Mad Thinker opened his mouth.
"What have I said about diabolical laughter in public?"
The Mad Thinker regularly wore a green coverall of his own design; unique, durable, functional. Now he wore a suit priced within the lower middle class income bracket; attracted a lot less attention than the ten-thousand-dollar-plus ensemble Sofen was wearing.
Now he wished he had a trench coat, one with a very thick, large collar he could use to hide his face with because of the adult store he was in, specifically the section he was in, following Sofen around like a lost dog, and the audio visual material she was making him carry.
"Four hours ..." Sofen casually placed the Blu-Ray on the pile "... just a few more ..."
"Sofen, we are well over the amount required."
"Editing will be required." Sofen examined another two, placed them on the pile. "One thing my mother taught me in her life of drudgery was that it's always better to have more at hand than less."
The Mad Thinker, noted for his lack of empathy, felt a pang of sympathy for this woman's mother.
"Couldn't we have obtained this via the internet?"
"The quantity? Yes. The quality, sadly no. We require the best quality material for this little operation ..." Sofen placed five more discs within the Thinker's arms. "That should do it. Pay the man, would you?"
The seething outweighing the mortification, the Thinker carried the pile of pornography to the counter and went through his selection of fake credit cards. He lingered on Reed Richard's MasterCard, before deciding against Mister Fantastic's launching his own investigation. Better to save that one the next time he got an e-mail from a Nigerian Prince.
The thin, short man behind the counter looked at the material, then at Sofen before looking back at the Thinker. "She's making you, right?"
"... what ...?"
"Seen this situation before. Making you go through the gauntlet before the big night?"
The Thinker decided a non-committal shrug was best while the clerk processed the payment.
"Good luck pal. Looks like she's worth it."
The Thinker grabbed the bags from the clerk. "She'd better be."
With all the dignity he could muster, the Mad Thinker carried out several bags comprising of 250 hours of hardcore male homosexual pornography.
A few days later, a certain 24 Hour News Channel experienced a slight scrolling of their video feed before it was interrupted.
With high definition hardcore male homosexual pornography.
In the corporate headquarters, instances of screaming, ranting, raving, along with several legitimate nervous and psychotic breakdowns abounded. People were fired, careers destroyed. And it only escalated after the first thirty minutes.
With management from on high screaming down the phone lines, the technical experts tried desperately to disrupt the rogue feed; boosting their own signal, shunting off satellites, cutting off all power, sending their transmission along different networks.
All to no avail. It was if the persons responsible had unparalleled experience in hijacking television signals for their own ends.
There were reactions. Apparently one Peter Parker was flicking channels while his elderly aunt was visiting, and caught an eyeful. Which prompted a very awkward discussion with his surrogate mother. While the channel was still playing.
Female students of the Jean Grey School for the Gifted found it incredibly entertaining, providing a running commentary and rating until one hirsute Canadian and increasing killjoy shut the feed.
And in the correctional facility known as the Vault, one high profile prisoner known as the Wizard, caught the sight with confusion, then realisation, then non-stop laughter, clapping his hands and shouting 'Bravo' while wiping tears from his eyes.
No material was repeated, and the action tightly edited.
Also, whoever was responsible had maintained a sense of symmetry with the posted programme listings. Traditional news format was replaced with traditional action. Extended editorials by noteworthy opinion holders were replaced with graphic solo acts. Panel shows replaced with group activities. And more than one executive resigned once they realised there was an upcoming forum.
The Police, FBI, NSA and other agencies were stymied. SHIELD were asked, but the request was shunted down the priority list. The fact that pundits of the News Agency had previously labelled them as 'Tools of the UN Conspiracy' had nothing to do with it.
Subscribers cancelled by the score. The share price tumbled.
Until exactly 168 hours after the fact, normal programming was allowed to resume.
And posted names and addresses of those who continued watching the modified content longer than an immediate change of channel could warrant.
A beleaguered CEO got a phone call in the middle of the night.
The man responsible stated, in no uncertain terms, that if those in charge of programming were allowed to besmirch the name of misunderstood philosophers and rebels against the status quo, then the change of programming would be permanent.
Sofen ignored the boy behind the counter while she read her newspaper. She never liked the clingy ones. With interest, she noted that quite a few of the performers from their pirate broadcast had been offered roles in indie film productions. And one was getting his column syndicated in one of the larger news blogs.
The Mad Thinker read his copy - for some reason, print media had picked up lately - with amusement. Especially the part where the authorities were looking for puerile hackers 'with a deviant leftish mindset'.
"... overall 20% drop in revenue ... record low in subscribers ... Sofen, I must congratulate you."
"No need. Your payment was congratulations enough."
"How did you..."
"I didn't make your mistake."
"I beg your pardon?"
"You, and those who watch the news, see it as a public service, informing the public of the events of the day ... or a nuisance, in our case ... or a noble calling, to inspire debate and change and possible revolution ... whereas I, like those who own the news, and coincidently set editorial policy, see it as a business. A business with a well-established market and consumer base. So tell me, my dear Thinker ... how do you attack a business that's earned your ire?"
The Thinker leaned back. "Attack their product or service. Poison the brand."
"A product well established and identified with firm, moral conservative principles."
"... a well-established editorial policy of firm, absolute principles ... against anything beyond their well-defined boundaries ..."
Sofen turned her back to the boy desperately trying to catch her attention. "They'll settle back into the well-trod path set by one J. Jonah Jameson; attack the heroes."
"Are you sure?"
"Darling, that was the whole point of the exercise. Spider-Man will endure you. Iron Man might boycott you. The Mutants will suffer your outrageous slings and arrows ..." Dr. Karla Sofen, former mental health professional now super-villain, gave her honest smile; the one that terrified most. "... but supervillians will destroy you."